Reviewed by Tom Litten for The Maverick Guide.
Choosing beer used to be easy. But the recent rise of independent breweries has paved the way to more choice, and while this is great for seasoned beer drinkers, it becomes a minefield for indecisive shoppers. So, when Firebrand Brewing Co, asked us to rate their newly rebranded beers, it got me thinking about what sets a good craft beer out from the crowd…
The importance of creating a striking looking can or bottle has become almost as important as the beer inside it. Typically, breweries opt for labelling that references a tradition or part of their journey, while keeping the overall aesthetic ‘Instagram-worthy’. Right now, bold designs are in and colour palates are reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s sketchbooks.
Firebrand Brewing Co have definitely adopted this approach with their own branding. For starters, their logo features a Cornish Chough sitting inside of the converted milking parlour from which they started the brewery (oh and it’s breathing fire, obviously). Their new range of labels are bright yet minimal, setting them apart from fellow beer brands. They’re produced exclusively in cans, which benefits the beer as the opaque packaging protects it from the light and keeps them fresh for longer. Aesthetically, it also creates a larger space for the designs with no wasted space.
So, good looking cans. But what’s the beer like?
Once I opened the case of beers I instinctively grabbed the Graffiti IPA and put it straight in the fridge. I first tried this beer about five years ago and it became a midweek favourite. It’s an impressive beer given it’s only 5%, full of tropical notes and citrus with a subtle bitter finish.
Sticking with the IPAs, next up was the Citra Simcoe New England IPA. These two beers are broadly similar in style and flavour profile; with the Citra hops packing in lots of mango and lychee, and the Simcoe bringing a little passionfruit and citrus. Compared to the Graffiti IPA there’s more mouthfeel and the abv is a little higher at 6%, which is an alcohol level I quite like for a 440ml can.
Moving on from the IPAs, I opened the Citra Equanot Kveik Pale while finishing up my emails one evening. This is a risky move and something I tend to avoid, as usually when I combine the two my emailing tone becomes that of a “cool” uncle and it’s embarrassing for everyone involved. The thing that struck me about this beer is that it’s pleasantly moreish. It’s a decent pale ale with a lot of fruit and herb character from the Equanot hops, and a slight tartness. ‘Kveik’ is a Norwegian yeast that is super-fast and super-warm fermenting and has become increasingly popular over the last year or so. It’s the first time I’ve tried a Kveik-beer and it’s my favorite of the Firebrand range so far! I also managed to successfully send all my emails without any embarrassing faux pas – result.
Last up, I cracked open the Firebrand Coffee Stout. I’d enjoyed the lighter styles from Firebrand so far, so I was interested in how their richer varieties compared. It’s pleasantly cappuccino-y, with a light carbonation giving some texture and a slight chocolate note underneath it all. It’s a good flavour, but for me it’s a little lacking in mouthfeel. I’d give it a 7/10, but that’s just my personal preference.
Overall, there’s a good range of beers here. Firebrand Brewing Co’s aim is to create modern beers with an American influence, which definitely comes across with these hop-driven styles. One of the things I particularly enjoyed about their range is the reluctance to churn out predictable Double IPAs at 8.5%. These beers are full of flavour, but there’s a subtlety and elegance that underpins each can ∎
Try Firebrand for yourself: firebrandbrewing.co.uk
*This is not a paid promotion. We were gifted a selection of Firebrand Brewing Co. Beers in exchange for an honest review.